Teen Won’t Go To School? Here’s What You Can Do

We can likely all empathize with a teenager not wanting to go to school now and then. Whether due to peer pressure, fears of being bullied, or just wanting to avoid a test they didn’t study for, your teen may understandably wish to skip school occasionally.

However, if your teenager refuses to go to school at all, you may be facing a much more serious problem. Defiant behavior combined with truancy can lead to several troublesome issues, including legal problems for you as the parent.

Why doesn’t my teen want to go to school?

Before you can start to work on a plan to get your teenager back to school, you need to recognize the underlying issues responsible for him refusing to go to school.

Common reasons teens skip school:

  • Peer pressure
  • Bullying
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Struggling with schoolwork
  • Social concerns
  • Lack of sleep
  • A disregard for authority and a resistance to structure

Keep in mind that in most cases, your teen refusing to go to school is a coping tool that he is using to solve an issue that is very real. In his mind, with his current coping skills, he can solve issues with bullying or anxiety or with his academics by simply not going to school.

If your teen is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental wellness concerns, it is important that you consult with a mental health professional so that he can get the support that he needs.

Educate yourself regarding school attendance

Truancy laws can vary between school district, city, and state. Take the time to learn how it is defined in your teen’s school district and how it is handled. While some parents may need to pay fines and potentially face jail time if their teen doesn’t go to school, it is not always the situation. Some school districts still take steps to hold teens responsible for their actions and their refusal to attend classes.

Consider reaching out to your teen’s counselor at school or another person within the school or district. They may be able to refer you to the right types of support as you work through the challenges of getting your teen back into school.

Keep track of your teen’s school attendance if you are able. This will help you to respond better if you need to compare to a school’s official record.

Communicate with your teen

Does your teen feel comfortable communicating with you?

If he struggles with bullying, anxiety, or other types of school-related stress, encourage him to open up to you about it. You can only help him find a workable solution for his issues if you know what they are.

If your teen is defiant, refusing to speak with you, and openly insulting you, then you may need to reach out to a mental health professional. Communication is an important part of establishing and maintaining a relationship with your teen.

The same goes for a teen that is struggling with bullying or depression blended with anxiety and panic attacks. Once you are aware of their struggles, you can get him the right mental health treatment and take other steps to protect him from bullies.

Setting limits and enforcing accountability

When your teen is refusing to go to school, you need to consider altering your approach to his personal responsibility for the consequences of skipping school. If your teen is constantly resisting you, acting defiant, and refusing to keep up with his chores around the household, it’s time to take action.

Does your teen tend to have free access to gaming consoles, a smartphone, a tablet, and other gadgets?

Is he able to come and go as he pleases, perhaps taking his car?

If the answer is yes, then you can set limits until he can correct his behavior. Expect to experience a fair amount of pushback when you start to adjust limits. Any teen who is against structure and authority and being told what to do will argue and act up when limits are established and enforced.

Establish firm limits about what he can and cannot do. Let him know what the household curfew expectations are.

Another step to take is to enforce accountability. It’s easy to fall into the trap of handling everything for your teen, to protect him from any hardship or struggle. When it comes to not going to school simply because he doesn’t want to, though, you need to take a different approach.

Be aware that your teen will protest, and he will likely try to argue with you. Don’t get drawn into an argument or a power struggle. Have discussions only when you are both calm and can speak without the conversation dissolving into a yelling match.

Use firm language that helps you to address the issues but is not overly combative:

  • Going to school is not optional.
  • You need to go to school, even if you do not want to.
  • Going to school is your responsibility.
  • It does not matter if you don’t want to go. It is your responsibility.
  • Going to school is the law.

Remind your teen that if truancy becomes a legal problem, you can only do so much to intervene. Once his case enters the system, it is now on a path that can only be corrected by adjusting his behavior. He may face time in a facility. You may face fines and time in jail, which could then impact your ability to hold down your job and keep the bills paid. These are all consequences that he needs to be aware of and understand.

Children and teens who are held accountable for their behavior may behave better and take more responsibility for their actions. They tend to make better decisions for themselves, including going to school and focusing on their education and future.

It’s rare to see immediate positive results when you start implementing a new way of life within your home. It’s not very likely that your teen will make an overnight turnaround and return to school without complaint. You may need to adjust your expectations to handle where he is today, get professional help, and gradually increase expectations.

A therapeutic boarding school is a reliable option for parents who have openly defiant teens. If the situation within the home has become untenable, there is value to be had in reaching out for help. In a therapeutic boarding school, your teen will face the structure he needs to work through his concerns. With an entire staff of mental wellness professionals and nurses, your teen will have each of his concerns addressed in a way that best meets his individual needs.

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